Friday, 25 February 2011

Goat Milk Ice Cream!

I do like goats milk ice cream! I first tried it on Cape Clare Island, off West Cork, Southern Ireland about ten years ago. A blind Scotsman on the island was making it himself and selling it from his front garden in the summertime to boost his pension. It was absolutely delicious so good in fact that I asked him for the recipe. He was a bit reticent about handing it over and as he was blind, I wondered what use it was to him anyway = guess the old goat was cleverer than I had at first realised!

You will need:

3 cups goat’s milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 vanilla pods split and seeded
5 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar (split, 1/4 c. and 1/2 c.)

Put the goat’s milk, 1/4 cup of sugar, and the deseeded vanilla pods into a heavy bottomed pot. Slowly bring to a simmer, add whisk in the cream. Turn off the heat.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and 1/2 cup of sugar. Whisk a cup of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks and sugar. This will temper the eggs and help prevent them from curdling in the hot milk. Whisk in another cup and then pour that mixture back into the pot with the remainder of the milk mixture. Turn the heat back on medium-low and cook, stirring, until the mixture begins to thicken. Remove from heat and strain though a fine mesh strainer into a bowl.

Cool thoroughly in the refrigerator, stirring occasionally until cold. This can be done the day before you want to make ice cream to ensure the mixture is ice cold before going into the ice cream machine. Enjoy.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Rennes - the beautiful capital city of Brittany

I have been looking at the beautiful flowers for sale at our local food market in Rennes. This is a beautiful city and despite being the capital of Brittany, has a surprising local feel about it. It is small enough to let yourself go and get lost among the amazing old cobbled streets with their charming medieval houses but big enough to have some wonderful places to go and see like the Opera House or the Parliament Building or indeed the old food market where the attached pictures were taken.

The best time to visit the food market is early on a Saturday morning. It is possible to park underneath the market and simply take a lift up to street level. We bring our cooking students along here to see the wide variety of seafood, fish, fruit, salads, vegetables, herbs and meats available as well as cheeses, jams, cakes and bread and lots more besides.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Parsnip Fritters

The markets are full of lovely parsnips at the moment. Now there are two wonderful thinks you can do with parsnips. The first is parsnip fritters which are exceedingly easy to make and turn out like a very healthy lunch snack. Great for parties or kids or both! The second thing parsnips are great for is making a home made champagne! That takes a little longer, is not good for kids but the end result is absolutely amazing for the adults!

Today we will stick to parsnip fritters!

You will need:

2 large parsnips
2 tablespoons flour
14g butter
salt & pepper
little olive oil for frying


Boil and mash up the parsnips; mix the butter into the flour. Add the seasoning and bring all the ingredients together. Beat well. In a hot frying pan, heat olive oil.
Drop in spoonfuls of the fritter mix and fry until golden brown. Serve warm.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Un burger pour le plat du jour

So we hear France admit today (France News 24 below) from being the absolute authority in the culinary universe to becoming the second largest outlet for McDonalds - the author Michael Steinberger talks about where it all went wrong for French food.

Yes it is a shame to see people queue up for lunch at McDonalds in France when they could just as easily go for a decent three course lunch at some of the numerous little restaurants all over the country. The cost of lunch can be as little as 9 Euros a head. The cuisine offered is often exceedingly good with ingredients from the patron's own garden. Many French companies offer their staff luncheon vouchers subsidised by the state so there is no excuse for not supporting good local restaurants. Unfortunately unless people continue to support such places, they will close and we will all lose out as a result. I think young people often take their heritage for granted and by the time it is realised, it can be too late. French Dining School is proud to be involved in French gastronomy in France and ensuring students from all over the world as well as France become aware of and support the fantastic culture and heritage of French and modern European cuisine.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Traditional Oxtail Soup

It's not easy to get your hands on an oxtail these days! I had to give the butcher a week's notice and he said that the usual wait was a month! I am tempted to walk around the fields with a sharp knife and help my self to the next clean heffer's tail I see! Reminds me of a story my Grandad told me. He had gone to the cattle market to buy a cow. He was an acomplished dairy farmer who had been instrumental in getting the Agricultural Credit Bank off the ground. He must have been thinking of high finance when he bought that cow because when he got home, he found that the tail had fallen off! Apparently the seller had glued it on! Now you don't have to be a vet or a Bank Director to know that a cow with no tail, is of absolutely no use to anyone. The tail is critical for a cow to keep cool, balanced and free of buzzing flies! I can't remember what happened to that poor cow but I can tell you that oxtail soup is one of the best soups on earth and it is worth going the extra mile to get your hands on a tail!

Here is a great recipe which never fails to impress. You will need:

* 2 lbs. oxtail - the good sized rings;
* plain flour (about a cup will do)
* 2 oz. beef dripping (beef fat) or lard
* 2 medium onions, chopped finely
* 4 pints hot beef stock
* 2 tablespoons tomato puree
* Fresh bunch of thyme
* sea salt and black pepper
* A bay leaf or two
* 3 cloves, 1 garlic and a splash of tobasco
* A small bunch of parsley
* 2 medium sized carrots, diced small
* 1 stalk celery, chopped up small
* A little port or sherry


Trim the meat of excess fat and cut it up into chunks. Coat the meat in the flour. In a frying pan, heat up the beef dripping (or lard/goose fat). Brown the meat very quickly in batches over a high heat. Remove from the fat and drain on kitchen paper. Turn the heat down to low/moderate. Add the onions and garlic and fry gently until golden (about 8-10 minutes). Sprinkle in the 2 tbsp. flour. Mix well and brown lightly. Slowly add the beef stock and mix in thoroughly. The soup should start to thicken. Stir in the tomato puree. Add the thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. A splash of tobasco really helps and a little port or sherry. Add the bay leaf, cloves and parsley (it's best to tie them up in a piece of muslin cloth so it's easier to remove them later). Return the meat to the pot, cover and simmer for 3 hours until the meat is really tender and falling off the bone. Let it cool a bit and remove the bay leaf, cloves and parsley. Separate the meat from the bones cut in bite-size pieces and return to the pot. Add the carrots and celery. Cover and simmer for another 20 minutes. It's ready to serve now but I prefer to let the soup go cold, refrigerate overnight and remove the solid fat from the top, and serve next day with warm bread rolls and a glass of full bodied red wine. Oh and it always helps if you have a good tale to tell!!

Friday, 11 February 2011

What will you have with your French Cuisine?

As an international cooking school we naturally receive enquiries from all over the world. Most of our students are simply seeking to improve their cooking skills and expand upon their culinary repetoire. Our students come from everywhere and the most popular destinations so far are Germany, Australia, China and the USA. Most of our students are professional woman but there are a growing number of men also seeking to develop their culinary instincts. The majority of our clients find us on the internet and it is not therefore surprising that email is usually the initial form of contact. We do get some unusual requests like the military General from Pakistan who wanted to send his son for four years "culinary punishment" and a lady from Brazil who wanted to learn "how to cook with ice"!

We also get requests from students who wish to do more than simply cook all day. They want to combine their week's cooking with more holiday like pursuits such as visiting places of interest. This is why we have a break in our daily cooking schedule allowing students a few hours off each day to explore food markets (the Rennes food market, marché des Lices,is one of the best in France!). We also recommend a number of beautiful local medieval towns to visit such as Dinan or Josselin. The beautiful seaside walled town of St Malo or the amazing abbey of Le Mont Saint-Michel are very popular.

Some students seek to combine their cooking course with wine appreciation classes, the French language, painting, astronomy, yoga, or simply cycling and walking. The area around Kerrouet is within The Mene, an area of outstanding natural beauty and unspoilt countryside. We keep cycles for our students and there are some beautiful walks we do recommend. We have professional sommeliers who give wine lectures and tastings and we are not far from the wonderful vinyards of the Loire Valley.

We are working on the provision of French language courses. However yoga, painting and astronomy (we are in one of the few places in Europe where the sky at night is not hindered by urban lighting!)will have to be offered by others. Our main preoccupation and expertise and love will always be French and modern European cuisine and we seek to do this exceedingly well in an intimate and memorable way.
If we take on too many additional pursuits we risk damaging the wonderful thing we are doing now - simply training others how to create great food in a unique, friendly and professional way. Bon Appétit.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Gourmet World Cookbook Awards 2011

The Gourmet World Cookbook Awards will take place in Paris at the Cookbook Fair from 3 - 6 March 2011. Thousands of cookbooks are published every year in France not all written by chefs or professional culinary bodies. An increasing number of cookbooks are now written by complete amatures who combine a love of great food with an interest in regional cuisine and travel generally. You don't have to be a qualified chef to be a great cook and a good writer could be hopeless in the kitchen. But when the two elements come together there is fusion which gives rise to some great culinary writing. I am thinking of authors like Kimberley Lovato with "Walnut Wine and Truffle Groves - Culinary Adventures in the Dordogne" or "So French" by Dany Chouet and Patricia Hobbs in Australia.

People used to learn to cook from their parents. The cooking school will always be the next best alternative to learn such skills today but there will always be a place for the good cookbook. One can become familiar with the methodology of the cuisine and the recipes can be a joy to follow particularly if you have the basic skills to manage the knowledge learned. Add a sense of humour and up to date travel information and you can have a great book. The first famous French cookbook was Le Guide Culinaire by Auguste Escoffier published in 1903. It is still the bible of French cuisine today. If you are planning to be in Paris for the bookfair in March, do look out for chefs including Alain Dutournier from Carré des Feuillants ( and Alain Ducasse ( who are likely to be out and about. Or just browse the numerous book aisles and find yourself a real culinary bargain in the process.